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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Open Wound

Original Article: Daily Times:
Date Published: November 22, 2012
Original Link: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\11\22\story_22-11-2012_pg3_5

 When I came to the US, and went for the Friday prayers, I use to cringe at a certain prayer that the imams led after the service. It was about God helping the ‘Fidayeen’ of Palestine. I knew those were suicide bombers who went into Israel and caused havoc among the civilians. The people on the pulpit used to misuse the pulpit by only rendering a ‘one-sided account’. At least according to my interpretation, no matter how noble and just the cause may have been, yet it did not justify the act of suicide, which led to innocent civilian casualties. I had a few Arab friends at school and we would go hours and hours in endless debates about the situation in the Middle East, but to no avail. Regretfully, three decades later, we can engage in very similar verbal bouts, but again, regretfully, to no solution.

The recent rise of violence between Israel and Palestinians is a recipe for further disaster. Both sides are extremely sentimental and hawkish, and both are wrong. Yes, I had long conversations with my fellow Arab students, who were perhaps adamant even back then that the Intifada was the way to go. They justified the acts of the Fidayeen much like the passionate Friday sermons here and back home. Those passionate sermons made many of the faithful simmer in rage, but this scribe always advocated the opposite very vehemently, and that was because of one basic rule: “Two wrongs do not make a right.” If the road to everlasting peace rested on the corpses of many, then that road should remain unseen and perhaps untravelled.

The reason why I call this issue an open wound is that this has always been handled with a band-aid by all the stakeholders. No one has been successful to heal the wound completely for the world to become a better place. People in the Muslim world can use this issue at any given moment to stir the emotions of many; they start whipping up the plight of many of their co-religionists for their personal political agendas. Never have one of these ‘faithfuls’ ever proposed a pragmatic solution to the issue, other than annihilating the other side. If denying the Holocaust is an act of valour and perhaps wiping out a country from the face of this world is the ultimate sign of victory, then I am afraid we are on the wrong page and perhaps on the wrong planet.

Our problem is that most of us Muslims see the issue of the Palestine-Israel conflict as a purely religious issue. We often ignore that this is a territorial conflict, which has its own history dating back several years. I know I am no historian, but when the British decided to create this ‘dagger-shaped country, which many of my co-religionists abhor, they had invited multiple Arab tribes to the discussion. But if my feeble and flawed memory serves me right, the Arabs had declined, because there was lack of unity among the many tribes. Can someone please fast forward for us and please tell us what the biggest problem facing the so-called Ummah is? If someone whispered what was missing almost 70 years ago, then I would say, we are on the same page.

People who actively use the Palestinian plight to further their political and religious agendas ought to take a trip to some of the Arab countries to get a first hand education of how most of the affluent Arabs consider their Palestinian brothers. I would refrain from jotting down the term that is used by Arabs for Palestinians as at least to me it is highly offensive.

Where Arabs are at fault for not uniting at the right time and, subsequently, unable to come up with a practical and durable solution, so are the Israelis, who have used brutal force to get their strong hold on the area. The fact of the matter is that the United States has stood behind and, at times, gone and above beyond the normal limits in declaring their solidarity with Israel. Although the current administration has snubbed Israel on a few occasions for the first time ever, but that is just a drop in the bucket, if you will.

One may disagree with the US policy, but one cannot discount the historical Middle East summits that were close enough to seal the deal under the administration of President Clinton. Based on the memoirs of both President Clinton and Secretary Albright, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the late Yasser Arafat backed out of the Camp David Accord. The much-disliked President George W Bush had tried his luck too along with his Saudi friends, but he also met with the usual deadlock.

Therefore the overly charged brethren all over the world have to realise that this issue can only be put on the back burner for some time, but it cannot remain there forever. These are fighting neighbours if you will, who will eventually have to sit at a table for the negotiation of peace in the region. Both sides will have to have talks. Not the Katyusha rockets, stones, Molotov cocktail bombs from one side and heavy artillery from the other. The tribes of Isaac and Ishmael have to live together, peacefully with one another, no matter what. The United States of America has to act like the leader of the free world, bring all the stakeholders to the table again and have them sign on the dotted line. Where President Clinton and Bush may have left an unfinished mission, it is perhaps for President Obama to ensure that it sees the light of day. If there is any legacy that he should leave behind, then this would be that legacy. Are you listening Mr President?

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